Last Updated on August 31, 2020
While you may know Thailand for its gorgeous beaches, wild nightlife, and delicious street food, its many Buddhist temples are also worth a visit. If you love culture or are looking for an unforgettable experience, then pick from among their most beautiful temples.
There’s Wat Rong Khun, more commonly known as the White Temple; Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; and of course – the challenging Wat Tham Sua, also called Tiger Cave Temple.
You’ve probably heard it from stories of friends who have trekked its 1,237 steps. Or maybe you’ve read about it online. No matter the reason, here’s why you should consider adding it to your next Thailand itinerary.
Location and Getting There
Located in the province of Krabi Thailand, this gem sits about 3 kilometres from Krabi town and around 22 kilometres from Ao Nang Beach.
If you’re coming from Bangkok, the best way to get here is by plane. Although there are also trains and buses. For those coming from Phuket, there are plenty of options. For a scenic (albeit lengthy) journey, take the ferry that services passengers twice daily. Buses and taxis are another option that will get you here faster.
Once you’re in Krabi, it’s time to stretch those legs so you can be ready to tackle all those 1,237 steps! But first, you need to find your way towards Tiger Cave Temple. Here you’ll have the choice of using public transport, such as the tuk-tuk or the Songthaew (local public bus). Expect to pay anywhere between 50 to 150 baht for these.
You can also hire a private driver that should cost you no more than 1,500 baht. Don’t worry, you can still haggle that price down! For more adventurous and experienced folks, you can rent a bike or scooter. But remember to drive carefully as Thai roads are notorious for bring chaotic.
You can’t miss the Tiger Cave Temple gates, with its bright yellow color, welcoming people from all walks of life.
What’s There To See
You’re probably wondering what makes Tiger Cave Temple worth a visit.
For one, it’s a special temple with an interesting legend. According to one story, a Vipassana monk who came to meditate in the cave saw tigers roaming about. Another tale says that a huge tiger did in fact, live and roam free inside the cave. Maybe that explains the paw prints on the cave walls.
Second, there’s the prominent 1,237 steps to reach the summit, promising you 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside as well as the Andaman Sea. Aside from this breathtaking panorama, you’ll get close to a gigantic golden Buddha statue. Some of the steps are uneven, so expect to come across sections that are over a foot high!
Third, it’s an interesting temple that includes a maze of cave complexes. Stay a while to explore the grounds. Take a look at the main temple cave and be surprised at the relics and archaeological items used in Vipassana teachings. The area around Wat Tham Sua is teeming with mystery as well. Feast your eyes on the lush overgrown jungle of Khiriwong Valley, or receive blessing from the monks walking past.
What To Remember
Wat Tham Sua, or Tiger Cave Temple can present itself as a challenge, even to the most active individual. That’s because the weather can quickly change in Thailand. And especially during the summer months, the heat and humidity can quickly get to you. So make sure you bring bottled water with you. And don’t forget sunscreen!
While the site is open from 8 AM to 5PM daily, it’s ideal NOT to make your ascent when the sun is at its hottest. Try to avoid the middle of the day or the early afternoon. Instead, try your luck when the gates open in the morning, or just before the sun sets (after 3PM). Not only will you steer clear of the blazing heat, the warm, golden glow of the day should give your shots some fantastic natural lighting.
The Tiger Cave Temple itself is FREE. There’s only a fee if you want guided tours, and these typically need to be booked in advance. You’re also free to roam the grounds. Just be careful because there are monkeys around. And they’re infamous for snatching belongings. Keep your wits about you, take your time, and explore at your own pace.
Last tip: be extra careful and mindful. After all, it’s still a temple. Wear appropriate clothing (not too revealing) and comfortable footwear. Don’t litter and rest whenever you need to. And of course, enjoy your time visiting the famous Tiger Cave Temple!